Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Being a Quaker Parent

Just returned from a weekend away at Woodbrooke Quaker college outside Birmingham, England. I'd registered for the weekend course entitled "Being a Quaker Parent" led by Craig Barnett and Helen Chambers. It was only half way through the weekend that I realised Craig Barnett of Sheffield has been following this blog for quite some time already, so it was great to meet him in person at last.

Craig is currently coordinating the City of Sanctuary movement in Britain. City of Sanctuary is a 'movement to build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary in the UK' and creates a network of towns and cities throughout the country which are proud to be places of safety, and which include people seeking sanctuary fully in the life of their communities. Many people are now familiar with the idea of a ‘Fairtrade City’, in which a wide range of community groups and organisations make a commitment to using and selling fairtrade goods. In a similar way a ‘City of Sanctuary’ is a place where a broad range of local organisations, community groups and faith communities, as well as local government, are publicly committed to welcoming and including people seeking sanctuary.

The Woodbrooke weekend was glorious in more ways than one so thank you to those who led the course, took the time to attend and worked so hard. We really appreciated talking to fellow parents. I took a series of photographs on the Sunday morning after breakfast. (I was dying to get out with my still-newish Nikon D3000 and see what was growing in the Woodbrooke kitchen garden at this time of year) - I find you learn so much looking at the garden that someone else has created - so I'm planning to share a series of twenty or so photographs here, over the course of the next few weeks.

Intellectually speaking, there was much food for thought too. Many parents came with their children and carers. Some atheist, some agnostic. I'd heard it was the first time Woodbrooke had run the course, and we all hoped they will do this again - it certainly meant a lot to us.

In the day-to-day bustle of parenting tasks I'd been feeling as if I seldom got a chance to reflect on what I was actually doing. (That sounds completely wrong, but those of us caught up with the school-run and getting-tea-on-the-table will perhaps have some inkling of what I am trying to say...). Food was an important part of the weekend - the excellent facilities at Woodbrooke meant that no-one had to cook and since all the parents said 'relaxation' was an important element about being on the course we enjoyed being looked after very much. This garden fork-to-table business is all very well, but it gets to be hard work sometimes and it is great to have a weekend off.

It was the first time too I'd had a chance to talk about some of the special challenges and joys of being a family (and parenting with) a disability. All these things are all relevant to this blog - access to gardening and access to sustainable food production needs to mean access for all.
The children seemed to eat well - our daughter was so excited about being at Woodbrooke she didn't want to go to bed in case she missed anything, bless her.

So, on to the kitchen garden. It's a walled garden and this is the view from outside. I'm going to walk you round and look at interesting and useful plants in the pictures and blog posts that follow. (Much of what is grown in the garden finds it's way into the Woodbrooke restaurant kitchen).

Before we go into the garden proper I'm squeezing in another link which I hope will be of interest here. It's the Good Lives Project.

It came about because in addition to the historically important testimonies of peace, justice, equality and truth-seeking, Quakers have now adopted a corporate testimony of 'sustainability' which amongst other things means that many Friends are very busy right now on an international level - lobbying at the Copenhagen Climate Change negotiations. Now that there is little prospect of a legally binding agreement, people of all faiths (and none) are needing to seek other ways of disseminating, upholding and supporting the message of 'true sustainability'.


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  2. Hi Frances,
    Really glad you enjoyed the Woodbrooke weekend. I came away reflecting on how important it is for Quakers to support and nurture families. Raising children to be healthy, happy and whole is an important and very challenging Ministry. I think Woodbrooke have got the message about how helpful it is for Quaker parents to have opportunities for mutual support and reflection, so hopefully this will become a regular opportunity.
    Yours in Friendship,

  3. Thank you very much for your words Craig and all your work.
    Yours too, in Friendship,


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